Domestic Violence is not our tradition

Legacy of Healing hosts coastal jam in observance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“For many of our families there are silent wars happening in their homes,” said Jade Carela, Director of the Tulalip Legacy of Healing. “Our homes are supposed to be a place of comfort, but for victims of domestic violence they are a battlefield on which the person they love and trust is doing the unthinkable to them.”

A sea of purple washed over the community of Tulalip on the evening of Friday October 6. Signs were posted throughout the teen center campus, displaying messages such as, ‘I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.’ And though the people were happy to gather together, there was a somber tone in the atmosphere, which indicated the seriousness of the event.

Taking part in a nationwide initiative, the Tulalip Legacy of Healing organized a night of culture to help spread awareness about a subject that may be uncomfortable to talk about, but must be addressed because of how often it occurs, especially within Native America.

The Legacy of Healing is a program that is designed to help support the local victims and survivors of domestic partnerships in several capacities, whether it’s just to supply inquiring minds with information and resources, or be in your corner throughout the court process, or even design a safety plan with you for when you’re ready to leave an abusive relationship.

Over the years, the program has increased its visibility in hopes to reach more local women and men who are experiencing domestic violence in their home lives. October has been a busy month each year for the Legacy of Healing as they’ve brought education, resources, and support to the community by participating in National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Through a number of events and cultural/group activities, the Legacy of Healing has shown up for many DV survivors and victims of the community and walked alongside them through difficult times, letting them know they are supported, loved, and not alone. 

While engaging their participants and clients in activities and open discussions, the Legacy of Healing has provided many opportunities for people to learn about DV each October. That alone is extremely important because many are not able to recognize domestic violence as it’s occurring. And this is due to the fact that the majority of folks have misconceptions about what DV is exactly, and they do not realize that there are numerous ways an abuser asserts control and power in a relationship, including isolation, gaslighting, and manipulation, among many others.  

This year, the Legacy of Healing organized a dinner and a coastal jam to bring awareness on a larger scale to the people. During previous DV Awareness Months, the Tulalip culture played a big role in the healing process, and the Legacy of Healing focused in on that aspect for this year’s gathering. 

The evening began with a dinner inside of the teen center at the Don Hatch gymnasium. During the dinner, attendees received t-shirts designed by Tulalip and Quileute artist, Marysa Joy Sylvester. The front of the shirt featured a purple ribbon inside of a medicine wheel, and across the bottom it read, ‘Domestic violence is not our tradition’. Purple is the official color of awareness for the month, and October 19th is ‘Wear Purple Day’, so should you choose to stand in solidarity with the local survivors of DV, make sure to don your favorite purple attire and send a selfie on over to the Legacy of Healing. 

While the people enjoyed their meal, Jade opened the gathering with a few words, and shared some examples of what DV looks like in our community. Following her opening statements, Jade introduced the guest speaker, Malory Simpson. As Malory bravely shared her story, people shed tears upon hearing the years of suffering she endured. An important takeaway from her speech was for the people to see how she has since overcome those past tragedies in her lifetime, especially for those who have recently experienced DV or are currently experiencing it and are struggling to see an end or a way out of their personal situations.

Said Malory, “I feel that it is important for people to hear so they know it’s okay to share their own story. We all heal differently, and this is something that has helped me grow as a person and has helped me to heal from my journey of domestic violence. I hope that after hearing me share my story, people know how healing it is to release that trauma they’re holding on to.”

Malory’s words hit home for a few of the community members who have also dealt with abusive relationships. One of those people was none other than Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, who then stood up in front of everybody and opened up, for the first time ever, about her past experience with domestic violence. And although the Chairwoman’s confession was shocking and heartbreaking, it was also a powerful moment for onlookers who realized that DV can happen to anybody. And after hearing those two moving testimonies, the people moved forward with the nights work with good hearts and a great deal of solemnity. 

Tribal member Princess Jones expressed, “That was healing for me because I am a victim of domestic violence. It was hard for me not to cry in there because I’m not used to people supporting me. I was ashamed to say anything when I got abused. I hid from the cops; I wouldn’t let them take pictures. I hid from our community. But I understand now that the community cares, that our people care, and it’s okay for me to tell my story. Malory’s story was so powerful that Teri got up and shared too, and she let everyone know she never told anybody that before. Just that itself was healing. And so was the entire coastal jam, the songs bring me peace and helps me feel connected to everybody.”

Following the dinner, the coastal jam took place at the Greg Williams Court. It was over three hours of good medicine as singers, dancers, and drummers from Tulalip and other nearby tribes brought healing to the people through culture and practice of the Tribe’s ancestral teachings. Infants, elders, and everyone in between, conducted important healing work through various prayers, dances, and chants during the gathering. 

Among the many special moments from the coastal jam, event emcee, Josh Fryberg, called all the survivors and victims of DV to the floor. After taking a moment of silence to pay respect to all those going through a DV situation, the dancers formed a circle around the survivors and the drummers offered a prayer song, wrapping each and every one of them with love and support. 

Malory shared, “It was amazing to see the strength in all of those who came to the floor to stand together. I want you all to know that you are not alone and that we all stand with you, just as we did on the floor that night. You are not what has happened to you. We are all worthy of a healthy relationship and that it is still possible. I hope that you know that you are loved and that you are not what your abuser may say that you are. You are beautiful!”

During the coastal jam, a blanket was placed at the center of the floor where people placed cash donations that will go directly to supporting the local survivors and victims of DV. A total of $233 was raised, which can assist a survivor as they transition away from a domestic partnership and begin anew in a safe and good way. 

“From what we know, the reason we have these different crimes on our reservation is because it stems from the colonization that’s happened to us as a people,” Jade stated. “I think the healing piece for us is knowing this is not something that stems from us as a people. When you’re going through this process, that’s part of what you’re learning – that it’s not okay. It’s not who we are. It’s not something that comes from us. It’s something that was taught to us.

“Domestic violence is not just physical violence; it is a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. This can be in the form of threats, intimidation, emotional, verbal, sexual, technological, financial, and stalking are some examples.”

The Legacy of Healing is asking for your assistance in raising awareness throughout the month by participating in their raffle ($5 for 1 ticket/$20 for 5 tickets) in which all of the proceeds go towards supporting survivors of DV. Over 20 prizes will be raffled off at the end of the month including a number gift cards and gift baskets, Xbox games, a ribbon skirt donated by Morning Star Creations, a beaded necklace by Winona Shopbell, beaded earrings by Paige Pettibon and Odessa Flores, and a cedar and abalone headband by Malory Simpson.

To purchase a raffle ticket, you can catch the Legacy of Healing team and the Tulalip Foundation at the following locations/dates/times:

  • 10/16 at the Tulalip Tribal Court from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • 10/19 on the second floor of the Tulalip Administration building (Carmel apple social) from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • 10/21 at the Tulalip Resort Casino (Semi-General Council) from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • 10/31 at the Tulalip Gathering Hall (Employee Halloween Luncheon) from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

If you are looking for additional ways to show your support throughout DV Awareness Month, you can still order your purple dranks, the Unity Elixir or the Violet Hope Lotus, from the café at the Tulalip Administration building, Ti Kupihali. 

To help raise awareness within the Tribe’s governmental entity, the Legacy of Healing has been sending out informational e-mails each week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This week, the Legacy of Healing’s Victims Advocate, Marisa Chavez, shared:

Here are just a few of the signs that a loved one may be in an abusive relationship:

  • A sudden change in clothing style (wearing clothes that cover more skin even when it’s hot out)
  • They start to cancel plans more often.
  • They have to check with partner before doing things (or anything)
  • They seem anxious, paranoid, or depressed.
  • They make excuses for their partner’s actions, or they take responsibility for their partner’s actions.
  • Their partner puts them down or uses harsh or harmful language with them.

Here are some ways that you can be a support:

  • Don’t blame or shame the person for staying in the relationship – Don’t make comments like “just leave him/her” or “I don’t know why you keep going back to him/her.”
  • Educate yourself – Did you know that most survivors of DV leave about 7 times before they are totally done with that relationship.  In Indian Country, it is closer to 15 times.
  • Support their decision – You may not agree with them going back but you can still support and help when they need it.
  • Give resources – Offering things such as websites or advocacy centers can be helpful.  Legacy of Healing can give you resources to pass on.
  • Understand the emotions – Know that they may be anxious, paranoid, have PTSD, or other emotional or mental health struggles because of the abuse.  Your patience will go a long way.
  • Check in on them – Calling or texting your friend or loved one lets them know that you are there for them and that you care.  Ask them to spend time with you, this will help maintain the relationship and trust.

If you or anybody you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, please do not hesitate to call the Legacy of Healing at (360) 716-4100 or assistance. And if you are in a crisis or an emergency situation, the Legacy of Healing provided a list of three additional hotline numbers that you can utilize during your time of need: 

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Strong Hearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483
  • Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County 425-25-ABUSE (22873)

Pharmacy brings Adult Vaccine Program to the community

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

For those who are attempting to get a required vaccine to accept a job position, but are facing a pay-out-of pocket situation due to lack of health insurance, this news is for you. For those who have health insurance, but your provider does not cover certain vaccinations, this news is for you. For those who are looking to stay up to date on their routine vaccines, as well as take precautions against COVID and influenza, but are also dealing with health insurance complications, this news is also for you.

The Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy recently announced that they are an official provider of a program developed by the Washington State Department of Health. The Adult Vaccine Program ensures that all of the citizens of Washington State have access to vaccinations at no cost of their own.

Whether uninsured or underinsured, the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy can administer a number of vaccines, depending on supply, to any adult over the age of 19. Those are the only requirements to be eligible for the Adult Vaccine Program – to reiterate, you have to be uninsured or underinsured and at least 19 years of age – that’s all. 

“Vaccines are very important. Everyone should be able to get vaccines if they want to,” expressed Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy Director, Kelvin Lee. “All the other drugs out there are for symptomatic treatment. Vaccines are the only category that prevents diseases and problems. It’s preemptive and that’s important because it works for many conditions. When it works, people don’t realize that it’s really protecting them from a lot of problems.”

Although there are many Adult Vaccine Program providers throughout the state, the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy is one of few locations in the Tulalip-Marysville area, and the only location on the reservation. 

This is just the latest endeavor the pharmacy has embarked on that keeps their clients and community close to heart, as they continue to provide the people with excellent care and services. Throughout the pandemic, the pharmacy implemented a curbside pick-up system to safely deliver medication to their patients, to keep their worries at bay and prevent the spread of the virus.

 In similar fashion, they also set up a no-contact pick-up service at the height of the pandemic and were the first in the state to utilize an iLocalbox smart kiosk.

 Now, as participants in the Adult Vaccine Program, the pharmacy is providing a service that many require and previously did not have access to. 

Kelvin explained, “In the past, the problem was insurance providers only covered vaccines that they thought were important. They decided on what people could and couldn’t get. But now, the state is picking up the responsibility and is making sure that the people who aren’t covered, or who are under-covered, are able to get vaccines too. 

“The more people know that we now offer this, the better. So, for the people who don’t have insurance, we definitely encourage them to come see us to get their vaccinations. We just received some COVID vaccines and flu vaccines, but the program also provides other routine vaccines too, like hepatitis, Tdap, measles, shingles – I believe we have all the routine vaccines available.” 

Currently, the Pharmacy is offering vaccinations on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. To book an appointment and for more information, please visit 

And if you’re curious about the schedule for adult routine vaccinations, what they are for and how often you should receive them, check out the Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule put together by the CDC,

Purple October: Show your support for DV Awareness month at October 6 Coastal Jam

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Calling all drummers, singers, dancers, community members, and relatives of Tulalip, the Tribe’s Legacy of Healing program is in need of your good medicine on Friday October 6.  

In an effort to raise awareness, provide support and resources to survivors and victims, and also open up discussion about domestic violence, the Legacy of Healing is hosting a dinner and a costal jam. 

The idea behind the jam is that by uniting the people together in song and prayer, those who have endured an abusive relationship can feel the love and support from the community. And likewise, those who are silently going through it in their home life, can come to a safe space and identify their available resources, ask questions, and speak in confidence with a professional from the Legacy of Healing.  

Said Legacy of Healing’s Lead Family Advocate, Kaely Wickham, “It’s important to know when you’re in that situation you can feel isolated or like you’re going crazy, and that what’s happening to you is not real. It’s important to increase awareness that this is actually serious. You’re not alone. We do care. You’re not going crazy. If you feel that you’re not in a healthy relationship, we’re here to support you and give that knowledge of what domestic violence is – we’re here to help you learn about it. Our services are entirely confidential and there’s no pressure to report about what happened to you.” 

For the past several years, the department has taken part in DV Awareness Month, a nationwide initiative that dedicates the month of October to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence and to show support to the victims and survivors of DV. 

Through film screenings, self-defense classes, trauma workshops, beading lessons and a number of other community gatherings, the Legacy of Healing has helped bring about a clearer understanding to Tulalip of what DV is. Additionally, the event goers will often take the chance to open up and share laughter, exchange stories, and at times, shed tears together. No matter what emotions are brought out at each gathering, more often than not, the participants walk away with a smile, their heads up high, and newfound optimism, knowing that they have the support of the Legacy of Healing and the community behind them. 

While engaging their participants and clients in activities and open discussions, the Legacy of Healing has provided many opportunities for the people to learn about DV each October. That alone is extremely important because many are not able to recognize domestic violence as it’s occurring. And this is due to the fact that the majority of folk have misconceptions about what DV is exactly, and they do not realize that there are numerous ways an abuser asserts control and power in a relationship, including isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, among many others.  

“A lot of people can kind of sweep DV under the rug because it happens slowly,” explained Marisa Chavez, Legacy of Healing Victim Advocate. “It’s not like the first time you meet somebody, you’re put in the hospital. It’s a slow build and you don’t often realize what’s happening until you’re really deep in it. 

“Typically, people who are victims of domestic violence think that if they call law enforcement it’s because it’s something physical. But usually it starts emotional, then it goes to psychological – financial abuse, threats. And then it becomes physical. So, this month’s about educating and providing information for people to realize that it’s not okay that this is happening.”

Within Native America, DV has plagued our communities and statistics show that the Indigenous population is at a much higher risk of experiencing an abusive relationship compared to other ethnicities. According to the National Institute of Justice, 84% of Native women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, as have 81% of Native men. 

However, it’s important to note that this study was conducted well before the coronavirus outbreak and those numbers are now projected to be on the rise. Not to mention that even with updated statistics, the amount of DV incidents may be higher, but do not necessarily reflect in research and studies due to underreporting.  

To help prevent further underreporting and so the community knows how to identify DV, the Legacy of Healing compiled a list that reads as follows:

What Abuse Can Look Like

  • Hitting, pinching
  • Burning
  • Pulling hair
  • Pushing
  • Strangulation
  • Physical intimidation
  • Use of weapons
  • Forcing the use of substances
  • Throwing items
  • Punching walls
  • Kicking in doors
  • Requesting your login info
  • Monitoring your social media- Stalking
  • IPV sexual abuse
  • Kicking
  • Rape
  • Forcing any sexual act
  • Uses children against you
  • Lies about your mental health
  • Financial control
  • Name calling
  • Jealousy
  • Shaming or humiliating you
  • Blaming you for their actions
  • Controlling where you go
  • Gaslighting
  • Love bombing

If you are experiencing any forms of abuse listed above, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Legacy of Healing. The program can speak in hypotheticals for those looking to discreetly acquire information. And if you are ready to take the next step, the department can also design a safety plan with you, for whenever you are ready to exit a DV relationship. 

Noting that each circumstance is different, the Legacy of Healing understands that leaving a DV situation is difficult and can sometimes involve the court systems. The department wants to inform the community that if you are in a situation where you do have to go through tribal or state court, they will be there to support you emotionally throughout the entire process. 

The Legacy of Healing is careful not to pass any judgements and allows their clients grace and understanding, because from a statistical standpoint, it could take a victim multiple attempts to leave an abusive partnership for good.

In previous years, the culture has been prevalent and at the forefront of many of DV awareness month gatherings at Tulalip. This year, the Legacy of Healing is returning to the ancestral ways with the coastal jam in hopes of not only giving a voice to all the local survivors and victims, but also amplifying that voice in-turn through the powerful songs of the sduhubš.

“From what we know, the reason we have these different crimes on our reservation is because it stems from the colonization that’s happened to us as a people,” stated Jade Carela, Director of the Legacy of Healing. “I think the healing piece for us is knowing this is not something that stems from us as a people. When you’re going through this process, that’s part of what you’re learning – that it’s not okay. It’s not who we are. It’s not something that comes from us. It’s something that was taught to us.” 

The Legacy of Healing is asking for your assistance in raising awareness throughout the month by participating in their raffle ($5 for 1 ticket/$20 for 5 tickets) in which all of the proceeds go towards supporting survivors of DV. Over 20 prizes will be raffled off at the end of the month including a number gift cards and gift baskets, Xbox games, a ribbon skirt donated by Morning Star Creations, a beaded necklace by Winona Shopbell, beaded earrings by Paige Pettibon and Odessa Flores, and a cedar and abalone headband by Malorie Simpson.

To purchase a raffle ticket, you can catch the Legacy of Healing team and the Tulalip Foundation at the following locations/date/times:

  • 10/2 on the second floor of the Tulalip Administration building from 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • 10/6 at the Greg Williams Court (Coastal Jam) from 4:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • 10/16 at the Tulalip Tribal Court from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • 10/19 on the second floor of the Tulalip Administration building (Carmel apple social) from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.
  • 10/21 at the Tulalip Resort Casino (Semi-General Council) from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • 10/31 at the Tulalip Gathering Hall (Employee Halloween Luncheon) from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

If you are looking for more ways to show your support throughout DV Awareness Month, you can order the Unity Elixir or the Violet Hope Lotus drinks from the café at the Tulalip Administration building, Ti Kupihali. The drinks are purple, which is the official color of the awareness month. In fact, October 19 is ‘Wear Purple Day’. Government employees and the Tulalip citizenry are encouraged to participate, so don’t forget to send photos of your team and your families decked out in purple gear to the Legacy of Healing. 

As a reminder, the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Coastal Jam is scheduled to take place on October 6 at the Teen Center. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the first 200 people to arrive will receive a free t-shirt. Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. at the Don Hatch Court. And the costal jam will follow and is set to begin at the Greg Williams Court at 6:30 p.m.

If you or anybody you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, please do not hesitate to call the Legacy of Healing  at (360) 716-4100 for assistance. And if you are in a crisis or an emergency situation, the Legacy of Healing provided a list of three additional hotline numbers that you can utilize during your time of need: 

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Strong Hearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483
  • Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County 425-25-ABUSE (22873)

Tulalip observes National Overdose Awareness Day in a good way

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Laughter has an infinite amount of healing properties. This is especially true in Native America. Nothing lifts your spirits more than a teary-eyed elder who is cracking up, or a 100+ decibel cackle by a rezzy auntie. 

There was plenty of laughter to go around at the Tulalip Dining Hall on August 31, as the people enjoyed each other’s company and painted vibrant colors on small canvases throughout the afternoon. Because of the dining hall’s acoustics, the laughter bounced off the walls and amplified the good vibes on what otherwise would be a solemn gathering.

Purple streamers hung from the ceiling and tables were placed throughout the hall. There were a handful of tribal departments in attendance including the Recovery Resource Center, Behavioral Health, Quil Ceda Creek Counseling Company, Tulalip Community Health, and the Healing to Wellness Court. They setup shop with resources at the ready for those looking to attain or maintain their sobriety. 

Although the tables were occupied by artists, staff and community members who grubbed down on the Panera catered dinner, one table stood alone at the far end of the room. And though we established that laughing can help those who are on a healing journey, the attendees still approached this table with a great deal of respect, as if it were a sacred space, and offered silent prayers. 

After viewing the large poster at the center of the table, the event goers painted the palm side of their hands with the color of their choice and placed it on the margins of the banner, in remembrance of their loved ones who lost their battle with addiction.

“My uncle Blake passed away in June from an overdose. He was my favorite uncle,” said Tianna Moses with a heavy heart. “Today, I painted my hand and put my handprint, along with my uncle’s name, on the poster.”

Communities across  the country observed National Overdose Awareness Day as the opioid epidemic continues to spiral out of control. At Tulalip, the day is dedicated to honoring those friends and family members who are no longer with us due to overdose, as well as educating the community by providing resources, tools, and open arms. 

“It is important to remember and recognize all of our loved ones who lost their lives to overdose, or in relation to substance use disorder,” said Tulalip Recovery Resource Center Program Coordinator, Kali Joseph. “It’s such a heavy topic, and it’s one of those things that we sometimes stay silent about. It involves lots of grief, and disenfranchised grief, but it is important to talk about and remember our loved ones.”

National Overdose Awareness Day also provides the chance for the local recovery community to strengthen their bonds together and continue to build a strong support system with one another. Over the past few years, the Tulalip recovery scene has grown in numbers, so much so that this year’s Recovery Campout tripled its participants from last year’s inaugural excursion to Lopez Island.  

Said Tashena Hill, Recovery Resource Center Outreach Specialist, “We did the camping trip which was a huge turnout, we had over 70 clients there and they all had a whole lot of fun. Being somebody who’s in recovery, you have to find what fulfills that dopamine and gives you that umph again, so you’re able to have fun. Because if you can’t have fun in life, you’re not happy. And if you’re not happy, you’re more susceptible to going back out and using. That’s why we’re doing fun events. We’re also starting classes up at our building that are focused on things like creating job resumes.”

Kali added, “One of the biggest things that prevents relapse or recidivism is having a good social support system. When you’re surrounded by other people who understand what it’s like to be in recovery, it teaches you how to have sober fun together. And it lets you know that you’re not in this alone because there’s a lot of stigma and shame associated with addiction.”

Upon entering the dining hall, each person received a Narcan kit. The overdose reversal spray is relatively easy to administer and has saved countless lives. Narcan is readily available at the Tulalip Health Clinic and the Tulalip Behavioral Health center. The Recovery Resource Center also frequently holds Narcan distributions throughout the reservation. And just recently, the program unveiled a new vending machine at the Pallet Shelter that is stocked with Narcan, as well as fentanyl test strips and hygiene products. 

“I overdosed two times when I was using, so I’m thankful for Narcan,” shared Tianna. “I think everybody should have it and be prepared, because Narcan really does save lives.”

“We’ve heard from numerous clients that Narcan has saved their lives – that if they didn’t have it on hand, they wouldn’t have made it,” Tashena stated. “It’s important that people know that it’s out there now and it’s easily accessible. A life can be saved. Some people didn’t have it on them, and that’s what that handprint poster represents. It’s for the people who we lost, and if they had Narcan that day, they’d still be here with us. We hear it over and over again, ‘I wish I had Narcan that day’.”

Kali explained, “Narcan is important because it can reverse an overdose. It is like a downstream approach to prevention but it’s important because it will save the person’s life right then and there. It opens up more windows of opportunity for that person to get sober and live a better life. And it gives them more hope and time to decide that they are ready to change their lives.”

According to the Snohomish County Opioid Overdose and Prevention Data and Dashboard, there were 215 overdose deaths in the county last year, an increase of 115 people when compared to 2017’s statistic of 100 deaths by overdose. And the most recent data shows that this year, at least 66 people have died due to an opioid overdose in the first quarter of 2023.

There have been numerous studies throughout the years, from the likes of the CDC and Washington Post, that show Native communities have been hit the hardest by the opioid crisis. The Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center’s (AASTEC) research indicates that in 2021, the opioid overdose death rate for Natives was 38.7 deaths per 100,000 nationwide. 

With this current trend, the epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. Even so, Tulalip is taking proactive measures by offering multiple programs and resources that are dedicated to helping their membership gain their sobriety and live a clean and healthy lifestyle. 

The event concluded with a raffle, in which people won items such as Coast Salish laced t-shirts, mugs, and blankets. The National Overdose Awareness Day event was a lighthearted gathering where the community reminisced about their late loved ones and honored all those lives lost due to an overdose. 

Tianna expressed, “I wish there were events like this happening when I was using, so I could’ve seen that there are people who care and are really out there to help. I was in active addiction for almost eight years, I’m 25 so that’s a long time. I never thought I would be sober again. I thought death was going to be my only way out. And that’s why this event is important, because it spreads awareness, and it shows people that we can recover.”

For additional information, please contact the Tulalip Recovery Resource Center at (360) 716-4773.

Facing the opioid crisis

 First ever National Tribal Opioid Summit held at Tulalip

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

Leaders from the Tulalip Tribes, coordinating with the Portland Area Indian Health Board, hosted the first-ever National Tribal Opioid Summit at the Tulalip Resort and Casino, August 22-24. With assistance from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director, Dr. Rahul Gupta, the group is working to create pathways for more resources and to better understand what is happening in communities all over the United States. 

“This is a problem that has two sides to it, there’s a public health and public safety side,” Dr. Gupta explained. “Any given day in this country, we have about 2,000,000 people incarcerated and 95% will get out. 60-80% are in there because of drug-related use. It’s a huge issue. We figured if we just remand people who are addicts, the problem would go away; it just hasn’t. In fact, they are 120% more likely to die from overdose when released. If someone has a problem with mental health or addiction, they should be getting the help instead of being incarcerated.”

“I came from a much larger city, and I have to say without a doubt, the disproportional impact on tribal communities is significant,” said Chris Sutter, Tulalip Police Chief. “We have learned that we cannot do this in silence. We are never going to arrest our way out of this problem. We are looking into Tulalip’s long-term vision: how can we reinvent the rehabilitative incarceration system that focuses on the well-being of the person, not just locking them up but helping them become long-term citizens when they come home.”

Throughout the 3-day event, several discussions were held on how to help and heal people with addiction. The public health crisis has leaders from several tribal nations coming together in search of answers when dealing with the opioid epidemic. Some problems addressed were fentanyl, overdose rates, prevention, and mental health. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “Many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa.” 

This has led to a whole new approach when dealing with someone who is currently in addiction. New methods have been developed and implemented to help address mental health as well as the body. People trapped by drug addiction are finally being listened to. New facilities are being built to handle the needs of people in addiction and help them find a better solution to how they live while giving them a way to manage their lives. 

One of the many facilities battling the opioid epidemic is the Quil Ceda Creek Counseling Center (Q4C). On a tour of the facilities with Dr. Gupta, Tanya Burns, Q4C Administrator, stated, “For our intensive outpatients, we use a whole person approach for helping people who are in addiction get medication-assisted treatment with primary care, group therapy, counseling, resource referrals and childcare services.”

“The intention was to offer as many things under one roof as possible,” Tanya said. “When you refer people in addiction out for different services such as counseling or to see a primary care doctor, you have no way to confirm they will go or can go. So, if we can take care of that here, we have that confirmation and can diagnose them or help assist them with finding treatment. We also offer Narcan to new patients, and anybody can walk through our doors and get Narcan for free.”

If you or someone you know are facing issues dealing with addiction, you can contact the Quil Ceda Creek Counseling Company at (360)716-2211. 

Building up the local recovery community: Family Wellness Court introduces Parent’s Talking Circle

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On a scorching summer afternoon, four Tribal mothers found comfort inside the courtroom of the Tulalip Justice Center. In a relaxing environment, much different than the typical court setting, the ladies decompressed in the comfort of air conditioning as they joined together at the center of the courtroom and circled up along with the Tulalip Family Wellness Court team. 

Established in 2020, the Family Wellness Court has proven to be an effective method in assisting their clients attain and maintain their sobriety. The program accelerates the reunification process between parents and Tulalip children by way of a detailed plan that incorporates their traditional way of life and culture. 

This alternative path to the road of recovery has been a major success within the Tulalip community and has reunited numerous families over the past three years. The Family Wellness Court design was based on the success of Tulalip’s Healing to Wellness Court. However, the courthouse made many modifications when developing the Family Wellness Court model. 

Although the Family Wellness Court’s game plan mirrors the Healing to Wellness Court model in many aspects, the court wants to stress that the two programs are completely separate from one another. Family Wellness is volunteer-based and works with individuals on their own accord, through either a referral or self-referrals, and is not mandated by the courts. Whereas the Healing to Wellness Court works on criminal cases, where their clients could potentially face jail time if they fall out of compliance. And since the Family Wellness Court is voluntary and does not work on criminal cases, there is no punitive element to the program and the clients do not face jail time if they fall off track.  

Overall, the program is built to support, encourage, and assist tribal parents and/or parents of tribal members as they work toward achieving a clean and healthy lifestyle. By following a personalized plan, put together by the individual and the Family Wellness Court team, the parents are actively fighting to regain visitation and custody rights of their kids and bring a close to their open beda?chelh cases. 

The Family Wellness Court utilizes the wrap-around approach and brings together several different tribal departments to ensure each of their clients has access to the necessary resources throughout their duration in the program. The team approach plays a large role in the Family Wellness Court and in each participant’s recovery journey. 

The team consists of multiple professionals including tribal courthouse judges, officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody on the same page and meeting on a regular basis, the client is apt to stay in-compliance and make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety when they know exactly what their team expects from them.

The Tulalip Tribal Court believes that this collaboration between multiple departments, all with the same intent of helping people attain sobriety, is the key to success with Family Wellness Court clients. This helps them establish relationships with the judges and task force members and includes them in the entire process from the moment they accept help from the Family Wellness Court to the moment they are reunified with their children. 

Many people are seeing great results with the Family Wellness Court model thanks to required ‘give back hours’. Not only does this afford tribal parents the opportunity to get reacclimated into the community, but also provides them with the chance to return to their ancestral teachings and traditional way of life through cultural engagement at local tribal events and ceremonies. Over the summer, the Family Wellness Court took this notion a step further by implementing the Parent Talking Circle into the program.

“We really wanted to incorporate the culture, especially in the Talking Circle,” explained Family Wellness Court Coordinator, Erika Moore. “We have a lot of parents who are non-tribal, and this is a good way to get our tribal members teaching the non-tribal members, so they in turn can teach their children more about their culture. It gives [tribal members] more confidence in getting back into their culture. And when we see them get back into their culture, they grow exponentially.”

Said Chemical Dependency Professional Arla Ditz, “The Talking Circle is more second nature to tribal members because it’s along the lines of the cultural teachings they were raised with. And it’s not just the culture, it’s that spirituality in general. One of the key things in successful recovery is the spiritual piece, no matter what you believe in or where you come from, it’s a really important part of recovery. And so, when we come into our circle, that really helps support that, and it brings the netting together to be more supportive for the people participating in the program. I think the Talking Circle helps people figure out their goals and achieve them much quicker, and maybe even better.”

Held at the beginning of each month, the Parent Talking Circle allows the clients to connect with each other and share their story, struggles, successes, and goals with the group. In this traditional and no pressure setting, the parents are more open to share and relate to one another’s journey, as well as express any hardships they might be encountering. 

During the most recent Parent Talking Circle, the tears were rolling as the participants recounted their lifestyle prior to enrolling in the Family Wellness Court. To see how far each of them has come since the height of their addiction is heartwarming and inspiring. And hearing the moms talk about their daily interactions with their children was quite moving, considering all the adversities they had to overcome to share time and space with their kids once again. 

“The Talking Circle has helped me stay accountable and encouraged me to keep going,” shared Tribal member Corrina Gobin. “It’s much more than just a circle. Today, I learned about the four sacred medicines, and it gave me the opportunity to learn something new with the whole group. Each person in the circle, you end up having a close and personal relationship with. We’re all available to help each other, whether it be rides to your kids, or back and forth to treatment, UAs, whatever it may be, they play a significant role in getting us through all the things we need to get through in order to get our kids back. They give me recognition when I’m doing things that are good, and they also call me out for not doing things that are good. I actually look forward to coming to court now because they give me that motivation.”

Tribal member Kerri Deen added, “I feel like it’s been helping me spiritually. Like the discussion today, it was about how to properly use sage and sweetgrass. The Talking Circle helps when we’re at a standstill and we’re struggling to meet our goals. No matter the situation, the team helps us get through those obstacles to get our lives back. It’s amazing and I love it because you don’t feel attacked. It’s more focused on helping each other get everything done so we can get our kids back.”

Though still in its infancy, the Parent’s Talking Circle shows nothing but promise in helping build up the local recovery community and reunify tribal children with their parents in a timely and responsible manner.

If you or a loved one are ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification with your child, please contact the Family Wellness Court at (360) 716-4771.

Healing at Lopez Island

Over 70 community members celebrate their sobriety at the 2nd Annual Recovery Campout

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The journey across the Salish Sea is breathtaking, especially in the summertime, with shimmering waterways, coastlines of evergreen, and the occasional orca sighting. Many can attest to the thrill of standing out on the deck of a Washington State Ferry as the wind blows through your hair and you are left captivated by the scenic views. And whether traveling by canoe or ferry, this is a special experience for the Indigenous Peoples of the Northwest who share a connectedness to the natural world and the sacred waters that dates back to the beginning of time. Tribal members throughout the region are known to describe the waters as medicine and that being on the water is healing. 

The Coast Salish Natives have ancestral ties to the San Juan Islands. Long before colonization, the sduhubš people frequented Lopez Island during the summer months to harvest from both the land and sea, as well as cultivate camas. Today, the island falls under the Tribe’s usual and accustomed areas and many Tulalip families visit to exercise their treaty rights and campout, like their ancestors before them. 

Over 70 members of the local recovery community did this exact thing, traveled through the healing Salish Sea to their ancestral territory of Lopez Island for a six-day camping trip to celebrate their sobriety. During their island excursion, the participants set up camp on the Tulalip owned property surrounding Watmough Bay and got a healthy dose of sunshine, culture, and outdoor recreation while creating friendships and memories to last a lifetime. 

“It’s really healing because we’re constantly by the water and we’re immersed in ecotherapy,” said Kali Joseph, Recovery Resource Center (ODMAP) Project Coordinator. “We have traditional roots here, ancestral roots here. The idea of the campout came to us by a community member who suggested that we take people who are in recovery to camp at Lopez Island. So, when that was brought to us last year, we made it happen. We probably had only 25, maybe 30 participants. This year we had 71. One night it was so loud, it was awesome to hear all the laughs, we all just felt that medicine.”

A lot of times, when speaking about addiction and recovery, the focus tends to lean toward the statistics as opioid deaths and overdoses continue to rise across the nation. However, it is equally important, if not more so, to highlight those who have attained a clean and sober lifestyle, those who are putting in work and are determined to not become another one of those statistics, those who are proving that it’s possible to overcome their battle with addiction. 

Locally, more and more individuals are finding their sobriety through an effective tribal wellness court program, which has a large cultural aspect to it. Additionally, the Recovery Resource Center continues to be a safe space for those struggling with addiction by hosting events such as Narcan distributions, as well as weekly NA meetings. It is heartwarming to see the recovery community grow and to witness them engage in community gatherings, traditional activities, and cultural events together while on the road to recovery. 

The campout is another example of how Tulalips in recovery can join together and tap into their ancestral teachings to help aid along their recovery journey. 

Said Kali, “It was really awesome and a great way to bring a different form of prevention forward. Recovery camp helped support, establish, and nurture their peer support network. Sharing space together and laughter in such a beautiful place, during such a beautiful time of year, the folks who attended will share these memories forever with one another.”

The campers were kept busy throughout their stay on the island. In addition to reconnecting with their ancestral way of life, the recovery community had plenty of activities to take part in such as hiking, kayaking, biking, swimming, paddleboarding, as well as competing in volleyball and badminton matches. The nightly NA meetings and campfire talking circles brought the community even closer by allowing the attendees the opportunity to share their story and relate with others who went through and overcame similar struggles. 

Upon returning to Tulalip, three tribal members reflected on their getaway to Lopez Island and shared their experience with the syəcəb.

“The 2nd Annual Recovery Campout was a blast,” exclaimed William Thomas. “I’m happy with how many people showed up this year, and also how many of us from 2022 are still clean and participated once again. And all the new ones who were there to bond, have fun, and make memories that we will all remember. All the photos and videos we made during the hikes, games, canoeing, paddle boards, biking, swimming, the meetings we did every night; I’m so glad I got to be a part of it again this year. I can’t wait for next year. Happy and loving life today with 468 days clean and sober. Love and respect to the squad, and all the new friends we made along the way. And thanks to ODMAP staff and all who made this happen.”

Ezra Hatch shared, “It was really awesome to hang out with others who are in recovery! From swimming to volleyball to kayaking to the campfire meetings – and just all the laughter, it really was such an amazing experience. I’m grateful I was a part of it. Thank you for putting it on for us.”

And Kerri Deen expressed, “When I first got to the camp, I got the best vibe from everyone. They had the best energy coming from them, the workers included, you can tell they actually wanted to be there – and not like they had to be there. I was only there for two days, but in those two days we went bike riding, kayaking, hiking, we got to listen to people drum and sing, and watched a beautiful sunset with an amazing view. It was spiritual healing I didn’t know I needed. I felt so whole by the time I left the island. I will 100% do it next year!”

After doubling the number of participants from the first campout, the Recovery Resource Center is already excited to see what next summer will bring as the word about the campout continues to spread through the recovery community. More fun, healing, laughter, bonding, and culture are sure to be on the agenda for the 3rd Annual Tulalip Recovery Campout. In the meantime, be sure to follow the Tulalip Recovery Community page on Facebook to stay current on any news or events planned by the Recovery Resource Center. You can also reach out to (360) 716-4773 for more information.  

“I just hope they all left with good memories,” said Kali. “And I hope they can see how healing and impactful coming together to celebrate recovery can be. Because when you’re in addiction, I feel that it’s a lot of unresolved grief, or disenfranchised grief, associated with substance use disorder – for the person and for their loved ones. And I think that having the campout can help the folks who are using heal. It can bring happiness from something that was so heavy and traumatic for both the person who was using and their families.”

Catching up with Charlie Buckets

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News, photos courtesy A.J. Parish

Were you aware that July 24 is International Self-Care Day? It’s true. Look it up if you don’t believe us. 

A quick history lesson: in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a “Self-Care Month” starting on June 24 and ending on July 24 to coincide with International Self-Care Day. This month-long stretch was deemed ample opportunity to allow for regional and national level initiatives by the WHO and its health-conscious partners to be highlighted.

Self-Care Day stresses the importance of self-care as the cornerstone of wellness. On this day, individuals worldwide are encouraged to make self-care a part of their everyday routines and turn it into a priority. It is a milestone and an opportunity to raise further awareness of the benefits of effective self-management of health. The concept of self-care has been around for a while, but it has recently received much attention because of its emphasis on wellness. This can include anything from following a healthy diet and exercising proper cleanliness to developing disease-prevention strategies in one’s daily routine.

Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, exercise), and environmental factors (living conditions, social habits).

In celebration of the upcoming day dedicated to self-care, we caught up with Tulalip’s own Charlie Contraro to discuss her recent accomplishments and the role self-care plays in her life.

As a proud Native American and Tulalip citizen, Charlie was born into a world full of studies, statistics, and reports that attempt to decree that because of her heritage and close residency to her home reservation, she is at high risk for a litany of life debilitating diseases. The most pervasive being diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart failure), substance abuse disorder, various forms of cancer, and liver disease.

To her fortune, Charlie’s parents Mike Contraro and Annie Jo Parish firmly believe in the notion that prevention is the best medicine. In their decade of parenting their youngest daughter to not just know of but actually embody self-care as medicine, young Charlie has become a delightful oddity compared to her peers. She devours blueberries by the handfuls, enjoys chicken breast as a primary protein source, routinely declines processed foods, and her beverages of choice are not sugar-filled sports drinks and pop. Instead, she prefers the standard taste of life-giving water and reaps the rehydration benefits of Pedialyte after her games.  

This seemingly simple yet difficult to live by mantra to forego processed foods and refined sugars for more nutrient-dense, vitamin-filled food comes with a whole host of performance benefits for the recent 4th-grade graduate. Measuring five-foot two-inches tall and weighing 97 pounds, Charlie’s physical stature is one of a lean and agile athlete capable of extended peak performance. Typifying that point, her recent performance on the basketball courts of Arizona while competing in the 2023 Native American Jr. Nationals brought her much adoration from teammates, opponents, and top-tier youth basketball scouts. 

During a GC3 Hoops live special about the state of tribal athletics, one scout said after watching Charlie’s team Seven Feathers play, “Their star point guard, Charlie, is already my #1 prospect for the class of 2031. You can put her in your database right now.” 

George Courtney, Senior Editor for GC3, added, “She played up in the middle school division with the Young Warriors, as well. I’m watching her and taking notes. Then when I talked to her after the game and learned she’s only a 4th grader, I was like, ‘WOW! She’s special and going to be really, really good.’ She has a great I.Q., she handles the ball well, has great feel and anticipation for the game, and has everything you’d want in the foundation for a young athlete. I was very impressed with her. In fact, I had one of the college coaches who was in attendance come over and ask for her information because they want to keep a tab on her.”

In Arizona, Charlie continued her recent play with a self-described All-Star team with her co-ed team Seven Feathers. Featuring four of her Yakama and Colville cousins, this team has a much more instinctive and free-flowing feel to it than her more structured Tree of Hope team operating under Nike’s AAU umbrella. Charlie and her Seven Feathers all-Native team dominated in Lummi back in April, winning every game by close to 40 points per game. Then they traveled to Mesa, Arizona’s Legacy Sports Complex, for Jr. Nationals last month. Her team again dominated, going undefeated in pool play, bracket play, and ran away with the W in the championship game. 

“It’s a lot of fun playing with a team that every player can dribble, pass, and shoot. And defend!” declared 10-year-old Charlie after returning from Arizona with bragging rights for being selected to the All-Tournament team and winning a legit championship belt. “I feel like Rocky Balboa after he became champion.”

After winning it all at Jr. Nationals, Charlie’s parents permitted her to get her first taste of a genuine media day. She was subsequently interviewed by regional coaches and scouts, like those of GC3, and got photographed for Tribal Athletics promotional materials. Of course, the bucket getter had to pose with her Wilson Evolution basketball and championship belt. 

As her on-court potential continues to soar with each passing Native tournament and AAU season, Charlie’s consistent discipline with how she fuels her body with water, fruits, veggies, and lean meats remains steadfast. She’s seen the results and knows what works for her self-care routine. However, she also knows there’s always room for improvement. 

To avoid burnout with high-level, year-round basketball, Charlie and her family agreed to make the most of short-term pauses between seasons so that she could develop other passions. Knowing that her mom and dad first met when they were frequent competitors on the Native softball circuit, Charlie opted to try her skills on the softball field. Her point guard mentality transitioned seamlessly to the pitching mound, where she most recently competed in Everett Little League for the Orcas. 

In softball, she worked towards finding a new routine. One that consisted of warming up pre-game by pitching to her dad after he braided her hair, enjoying her always scrumptious blueberries, and then implementing a series of visualizations. She would visualize her pitches and their ideal locations to each hitter to maximize her opportunities for getting strikeouts.   

Charlie didn’t experience the same level of team success on the softball field that she routinely secures on the basketball court, but she admitted it was still a lot of fun to be challenged in new ways. “When I’m pitching and things aren’t going my way, I take time to reflect and replay my pitches in my head between innings. If I can see what I did wrong, then I can make adjustments and get it right the next inning. Plus, there are always more games and more chances to get better,” she said. 

At just 10-years-old, Charlie is a true breath of fresh air as it relates to Tulalip’s next generation and their acceptance of prioritizing self-care for a strong mind and body that are capable of not just persevering through physical challenges, but making sound mental adjustments when faced with an obstacle to increase their chances for success. So on this International Self-Care Day, we encourage our readers to be like young Charlie for just one day by drinking only water, eating a handful or two of blueberries, and making time to sit in the peace and quiet in order to visualize what your goals are and what adjustments you can make to accomplish them. 

Container for Life: Help when you need it most

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Container for Life is an exciting and potentially life-saving program being welcomed into our Tulalip community. In a collaborative effort led by Community Health and Tulalip Bay Fire to not waste a single second while attending to on-reservation residents during emergency situations, the family-friendly Container for Life launch event was held on June 16.

Hosted at the Tulalip Bay fire station, the always on alert firefighting team teamed up with the endlessly patrolling police officers to offer a memorable BBQ spread that got hungry passers-by to stop for a bite. After filling their bellies with grub, they were offered dessert in the form of sweet information about the many benefits of becoming a Container for Life participant.

“When a medical emergency occurs, it’s very hard for the person involved or their family to answer all the questions that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and/or medical personnel will need to ask,” explained the lead nurse for Community Health, Ashley Schmidt. “With the Container for Life, most of that information is in the container. This helps ease stress and errors that can occur when people are under duress.

“Tulalip consists of 22,000 acres or 35 square miles. Much of the area has limited access, often only one road in and out,” she added. “Four out of five Tulalip emergencies happen in the home. The Container for Life will greatly assist in addressing medical needs immediately and possibly prevent a need to go to the hospital, not to mention this could be lifesaving. In addition, there is a section on the medical information form for tribal members to include preferences and goals of care. For example, this would be a great place to include cultural considerations such as not cutting one’s hair or spiritual preferences.”

  The Container for Life program is nationally recognized for saving countless lives each year by providing emergency responders with life-saving medical information during an emergency. The Container for Life is a form that is stored in your refrigerator. When emergency responders are called to your home they will see the Container for Life sticker on your front door and know to go to your refrigerator to get your important medical information.

The simple to fill-out form, held in an easily recognizable container is designed to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself. The container holds all the information you deem important enough to share in the event that emergency services are called to administer proper medical treatment, or you are in a situation that requires treatment at a new medical facility.

“My dad has had several health scares over the past year. We’ve noticed that when he’s gone by ambulance to the hospital, and we’ve followed by car, they keep the family out while administering medical care,” shared Amy Sheldon, daughter of Container for Life participant Ray Sheldon. “This can sometimes be as long as an hour or even two, where we can’t be with him. It’s always a concern whether or not they know all his relevant information. With this container, we know that they can find all his important information, like what medications he’s currently taking and what his allergies are.”

It’s the mission of Community Health and Tulalip Bay Fire to ensure every elder on the reservation is given the opportunity to become a participant. But this program isn’t limited to just elders, all adults and kids can benefit from participating, as well. 

“We came for the learning experience and to let the kids see the fire trucks up close, and to enjoy the BBQ,” said Annette Cheer with four young ones in tow. “They were so excited to interact with the firefighters and Buster the police dog. We learned a lot. I can attest to the importance of children needing to participate in the Container for Life, especially if they have really bad allergies or are taking any medications. You never know what could happen, so it’s better to be prepared.”

Each Container for Life kit includes:

  • The Container for Life vial
  • A branded magnet for the refrigerator 
  • A branded window cling for a front-facing door or window 
  • 2 medical information forms 
  • An instruction card explaining how to use all of the above items

Having your critical information available in an emergency could be the difference between life and death. If you or a loved one wish to participate, Containers for Life kits are available for pick-up both at the Tulalip Bay Fire Department and Community Health buildings. 

Community Health can be contacted for additional information at 360.716.5662 option 5.

A cultural approach to recovery

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Aiming to build a strong and local recovery community so the people can heal together, the tribe’s Family Services Problem Gambling program is bringing the Wellbriety Movement to Tulalip. This past May, the program hosted a three-day training called the Medicine Wheel and the 12 steps. This training was limited to the first fifteen people to sign up and was focused on tribal adults in recovery. 

The training was created by White Bison, a Native American non-profit that founded the Wellbriety Movement in order to bring healing and recovery to tribal communities. By utilizing cultural practices and teachings to combat addiction, Indigenous nations throughout the country are seeing positive results thanks to White Bison’s trainings. 

The trainings are often referred to as fire starters, and they are designed to help get the ball rolling for recovering addicts and encourages them to take the initiative to build a recovery community from within the tribe. After a successful training for adults, the Problem Gambling program is preparing for another Medicine Wheel and 12 steps training, and this one is geared toward the youth of the community, ages 13 to 21. 

“We chose to do the youth training because it doesn’t seem like this is an area that’s talked about much with the youth; there’s not a whole lot of support in this area,” said Substance Use Disorder Professional, Robin Johnson. “And it’s intimidating when you’re a youth, to say that ‘I’m in recovery’ or ‘I don’t want to use’. High school and junior high are hard enough, it can be intimidating to take your stance.”

During the youth training, participants will delve into heavy topics including a look at how many of us were raised and how growing up in an environment where trauma lives and thrives, and where drug use and alcohol is often prevalent, can lead many children down a road to substance abuse, acting out, and depression. 

“Hopefully this helps bring a better understanding, because it talks a lot about intergenerational trauma,” Robin explained. “So, a better understanding of that and also their own family dynamics. Because that dynamic – if there’s no understanding, they feel responsible and start blaming themselves. This gives them an understanding of where it started, and why it’s happened within their families, and why it continues to happen.”

By providing that understanding , the program gives young adults the power back in their lives and teaches them how to ‘re-chart their lives with healthy choices and healthy behaviors’. The training harkens back to the teachings of our elders and uses the art of storytelling as an instructional method throughout the program. 

“What sets this training apart is, with the medicine wheel you do the steps in a circle,” stated Robin. “In the linear way, when you relapse you start over. In AA or NA, you start over. But with the medicine wheel, it’s in a continuous circle, so you just continue moving forward and that makes a huge difference.”

Along with the 12 steps, which helps with your personal character development, the youth will also sharpen a number of life skills in areas such as decision making, goal setting, solution finding, and creating a healthy self-image, among others. 

In addition to this training, the Problem Gambling program will also be hosting the White Buffalo’s Warrior Down this August. Warrior Down is a relapse and recovery support program for Natives who are completing treatment, as well as those who are returning to the community from incarceration. It’s also open to anyone with aspirations to become a local recovery coach, those who are on the road to recovery and are looking to be a pillar of support for others in the community who are going through similar tribulations. 

Said Robin, “By providing these trainings, people can then decide if this is something they want to bring into the community. And hopefully, they will get fired up about starting this. The ultimate thing that I would love to see is the youth, with the support of their parents or an adult, get some meetings started in hopes other youth would join in and want to take part.” 

The Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps for youth training is a three-day program and begins on June 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The training will be held at the Kenny Moses building. For more information, or to sign up for the training, please contact Robin Johnson at (360) 722-1067. 

“Your present situation isn’t your final destination, take every opportunity to learn and grow, be the next generation of leaders in this community. Find your truth, use your voice,” Robin expressed. “Tulalip offers so many ways to connect to its heritage and culture, this training is another way to cultivate an understanding of the history to influence positive change for the future.”